This Is Us: The Horse Trainer with the “Non-Horsey” Spouse
We have all seen them; the dynamic duos of the horse industry – the husband and wife teams that work day in and day out riding together, making business decisions and seemingly doing everything together.
But have you ever wondered what it is like for those trainers who have a non-horse enthusiast spouse?
Beth Case, Melissa Shetler, Julie (Majernik) Solvesky, Amy Hanssen-Keyes, Tommy Sheets and Kendra Weis provided their expert insight into how they have managed a successful marriage with a spouse who is relatively uninterested in the horse world.
It’s no secret that these spouses knew what they were getting into when they married a horse trainer. As Melissa Shetler points out, “I think this lifestyle is hard with any relationship. But when I met my husband, John knew this was important to me.”
Even so, struggles accompany a non-traditional job with a heavy travel schedule. For Julie Solvesky and her husband, Chris, (pictured right) who works in management for a big box retail chain, the conflicts surround the idea that both have very demanding work schedules. “I am always busy operating my business, and his schedule is always full with his job,” Julie shares.
Amy Hanssen-Keyes has a different view. “We have turned what some people might see as struggles into a normal lifestyle and positives for us.” For her, it is comforting to know that when she leaves her farm and half of her horses behind, her husband is at home with their best interests in mind.
Tommy Sheets and his wife, Leslie, (pictured left) note that, in the beginning, it was challenging because she didn’t realize the demands of his job and the reality of him being gone half of the year.
In essence, the main struggle for them has always been not being able to attend specific family and community gatherings together. Leslie Sheets, an interior designer, is passionate about her career. She notes that this passion is a gift and it alleviates some of the struggles associated with Tommy’s absence.
Everyone agrees, the lifestyle of a horse trainer with its grueling hours, extended travel and being always on call is indeed, not an easy one and tends to get in the way of family time.
It can be difficult to shut work off at the end of the day, no matter the job. And with technology constantly at reach, in our pockets and even on our wrists, it can become even more daunting. Finding time for family can be challenging, yet these trainers and their spouses have discovered the secret to success.
“Try to make time for the family away from the business. As much as we love this life, it’s important to separate business and family,” states Shetler (pictured right). Solvesky agrees, noting, “Communication around schedules is essential. We make plans around our schedules to spend time with each other.”
A common theme among these couples is the need to prioritize family. While this can sometimes be difficult, the solution is often simple. For instance, after a horse show, Beth Case’s husband, Kevin will sometimes take a day off from his job as a police officer so that they can spend time together.
“We make sure we take time at the end of every day to talk. And we make sure we go away often without a horse trailer, or customers, or the kids,” says Hanssen-Keys. This has worked for her and her husband for 27 years.
Sundays are a family day for Kendra Weis when she is not judging or showing. She and her husband go to church and enjoy spending time at their lake house. Her husband, a college professor, teaches a few night classes a week. She uses those days for her evening lessons so they can spend other evenings together.
The Unsung Heroes
As the saying goes, teamwork makes the dream work. While we marvel over these trainers’ talents in the arena, they are quick to point out that their spouses are vital to their success. From child-rearing to helping around the farm, these non-horse enthusiast spouses are the real unsung heroes.
“When my children were little, it was nice to have him home. He was there for all of their needs. If he were a horseman and was on the road too, I don’t know who would have helped raise them once they started school,” states Hanssen- Keyes (pictured left with her family). Her husband, David, works for the highway department for the town of Royalton, NY.
The situation is similar for Beth Case. When she is home, one of them will drop their son off at the babysitter, and the other will pick him up. When she is gone, that responsibility, along with others, is placed solely on her husband. “I don’t know how he does it, but he does,” she says.
Melissa Shetler points out that her husband, John, who is a juvenile probation officer, helps considerably around the farm. “He is a morning person and does all the morning feedings. He also maintains things around the barn, such as fixing the fence, stalls, etc. We both have our role in this crazy business, and I appreciate that.”
Kendra Weis (pictured right) is offered an alternative form of support. “Are you going to make money?” is a question her husband, Scott Taylor, asks her all the time. “He’s a business professor, so he’s always in a business mind.” This has helped Weis make decisions that will financially benefit her business.
“Leslie is extremely motivated and keeps up on self-motivation and small business education, and through that, helps me in running my business,” says Tommy. Also, he conveys that she is a very successful businesswoman and stays heavily involved in the community. Because of that, his wife keeps him involved in a lot of community projects. Most importantly, he expresses, “She reels me in when I get out on the ledge.”
While the lifestyle of a trainer may not be “normal,” these trainers have managed to carve out their sense of normal with their ever-supportive “non-horsey” spouses.
About the Author: Kyle Pears, of Mercer, Pennsylvania, graduated from Clarion University with a bachelor’s degree in corporate finance and real estate. He has worked as an assistant trainer for Chafin Performance Horses for the past nine years and enjoys training and showing western pleasure futurity horses.